We’ve been focusing on birds lately in our nature studies. It has been fun to really go in depth and learn about the forms, habits, and details about these awesome creatures.
We’ve learned how birds fly and how they steer. We’ve learned why they preen and how they keep warm. We’ve learned about why and how they migrate and how people began to discover that birds do migrate year after year. We’ve colored a bird map and learned the parts of the bird so that we can discuss birds’ various field marks and identify birds we find. We’ve learned about the different kinds of nests different birds will make.
We learned about a type of nest made by the swiftlet entirely out of “bird spit” that people in China risk themselves to harvest and serve in costly soup. This little bit of trivia fascinated my son and completely repulsed my daughter. When discussing Adherent Nests (of which this nest is an example), she will not refer to this information that she does know, because it is so gross.
We learned that the Trumpeter Swan is the heaviest flying bird in North America. We learned that Emporer Penguins nest their eggs on the daddy’s feet (and Princess K has mentioned specifically that she is glad that humans do not use this type of prenatal development).
We took walks and observed many birds. We’ve seen a murder of social crows and an industrious Nutall’s Woodpecker. We saw wild turkeys in Grandma’s yard and brightly plumed parrots and peacocks at the zoo.
We’ve made friends with a little California Towhee family that we think lives in our front yard. It was X-man who noticed that it was orange under the tail that led to its identification. Princess K and X-man, after reading about the sleeping habits of birds (they were very surprised that many birds do not sleep in their nests except when they are caring for their eggs) examined our yard and found a few suitable bushes that these birds might sleep in and they visit our bird feeder at least twice daily.
In our backyard, we saw two lovely black and white birds and we think they are Northern Mockingbirds. There is such a thrill in identifying new birds that we’ve never seen before.
As we’ve learned more about these creatures, we’ve all discovered new delight in our nature walks and observations.
Here’s some activities we did and some resources we used throughout our study of birds:
Books We Read:
1. Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day– We have really enjoyed this book. It is full of interesting information written conversationally. It has many easy places to stop so it lends itself to the short lessons we prefer in our home.
2. Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 Notebooking Journal– This is a great resource. There are coloring pages of birds, places for my children to draw pictures of what they are learning and write a brief explanation of their drawings, and a variety of vocabulary and review activities to complete. My daughter loves the colorful lapbooks that are provided at the end of each chapter. She’s made a peacock feather pocket, a bird facts flap book, a migration wheel, and a nest pop-up book. Pairing drawing with narration in notebooking activities has really proven itself to be very valuable in remembering what they learned.
3. Burgess Bird Book– We love this book! What we learn in our science book, this book will describe in narrative style. The birds described in this book have become friends. One main character is Jenny Wren. Today, we were at the library reading a book we happened to see about birds (called Our Yard is Full of Birds by Anne Rockwell) and we found a picture of the House Wren. When I told my daughter this was Jenny Wren, she was so excited to see her! We have all retained more of the knowledge we are gaining from the Apologia textbook because of reading this delightful storybook.
I referenced this Study Guide from time to time to find pictures of the birds I was reading about. I also used the bird notebook pages (from notebookingpages.com) for the kids to color and narrate back what they learned about each bird.
4. Mr. Popper’s Penguins– The kids absolutely loved this story. It is fun, funny, outrageous, endearing and absolutely enjoyable. After we finished reading it, we declared a penguin day and read some informational books about penguins and made a penguin lapbook about all that we learned. We used the Free Penguin Lapbook from Lapbook Lessons.
5. Trumpet of the Swan– We are currently finishing up this book and it is also very amusing. This is currently my children’s favorite thing we do for school. Even my four year old loves it. In fact, he loves it so much that he requested a stuffed swan when we were making out their Christmas lists. And he put it on the top of his list. He wanted it more than any other toy he requested.
(Don’t tell him, but he is in fact getting a stuffed swan in his stocking for Christmas. My sister told me I should find a way to tie a trumpet around its neck, which would be very awesome if I could figure out how to do that.)
6. The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon– We really enjoyed this story about John James Audubon and how he discovered that the same birds came back to the same place year after year.
7. Tacky the Penguin– This is a funny story about a penguin who is a little odd. We read this and others in this series, just for fun. My preschoolers especially enjoyed these picture books.
8. Story about Ping– We had read about Cormorants in our textbook and it had referenced this picture book specifically. http://notebookingpages.com/So we had to go back and read this story again, looking for the fish catching birds in the tale. This is a great story with engaging illustrations and we always enjoy reading it.
9. Make Way for Ducklings– Another picture book my preschoolers liked. Sweet tale, sweet illustrations.
10. Sylvie– My daughter really liked this picture book about a flamingo who changed her colors by eating a variety of amusing objects. It was a funny way of reinforcing the idea that many birds get their colors from what they eat.
*Mac’s Field Guide to Northern California Park and Garden Birds– not a book, but a good resource we’ve used to identify a few birds we’ve seen.
**Bird Bingo Game– This is not something we’ve used, but it is on my Christmas list! We are a game family and it looks like fun.
Activities We Did or Thought About Doing or Plan To Do:
1. Bird Feeder Experiment: We got a bird feeder with two sections. We put bird seed in one side and suet in the other side. We watched to see if the birds who visited our yard prefered the seed or suet. This experiment didn’t work out exactly as planned. First of all, only 2 or 3 birds total found our bird feeder- the California Towhees that live near our front yard. They visited several times a day, in the morning and in the late afternoon or early evening. They liked both the seeds and the suet- and ate us out of both within a few weeks.
2. Feather Hunt: We went for a walk in a nearby park that has a path around a lake. There are many ducks and geese that live there, so we decided to go there to find some feathers to study. It was successful! We found several feathers and while we were at it, we also got to hear a woodpecker tapping and see a titmouse (identified by its crest and location) perched high in a tree.
3. Field Trip to California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco: This museum had a homeschool day, so my husband took a day off work and we all went to the museum. We had a wonderful time. We saw many things, and of course, not all of them had to do with birds. But we did see brilliantly colored parrots, owl skulls, and penguins at feeding time.
4. Build a Birdhouse: We were going to do this, but so far we haven’t had a free moment and with the holidays approaching, I don’t think we will. Someday, I think it would be a good handicraft/science project for X-man and his dad to do together.
5. Owl Pellet Dissection: Owl “Puke” Pellets are in the mail so that we can dissect these and discover what an owl eats. I’m excited for the kids (and their dad) to do this and then tell me all about it. 🙂
6. Candling: This activity is listed in our Apologia textbook and I think we’ll give it a try. And there are a few videos of candling and hatching birds we can watch: